All in the Cards

All in the Cards
The Idea of Warhammer

Shannon Drake | 3 Oct 2006 08:03
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"It's complicated," he allows, "[but] trust me. It will be an MMOG that drips Warhammer." To that end, they use the best resource available, the game system itself. Many designers would envy the extensive background on the Warhammer world, from the sourcebook to the miniatures game to fictional stories. When it comes to building the game, "We look to the eight points of Warhammer." He starts ticking them off: "Empire, Battle, War, Magic, Monsters, Grudges, Humor and Chaos. These eight points, driven through endless, heroic, perpetual struggle are what our game is all about. As for where we get these points from, we go right to the source - Games Workshop's Rick Priestly and Alan Merrett." As the Shadowrun debacle was still fresh in my mind, and as Paul also faced the challenge of adapting an older games style to a new format, I asked him for his thoughts on whether Warhammer had "too much baggage." "It's back to the idea of Warhammer," he answered, capturing both the difficulty of dealing with an established property, and the mindset required to overcome that obstacle. "We have a definitive vision we want to follow, and we get the best out of Warhammer when we stick to its core idea. That way, you don't get caught up in all the 'baggage.' To mangle a quote, we fudge the IP for the gameplay and the gameplay for the IP. But we always aim to make tasty fudge."

Outside of Warhammer's eight points, the Mythic team has three more guiding principles: "We want the game to work through skill, commitment and imagination," Paul says. "Part of that is to reward players' skill. We want to ensure that those people who bother to learn the best ways to play, find the best ways to gather information and make the most of their gaming time get a reward. It's not communist in outlook. It's about heroes being just that. If you have the commitment, the skill and the imagination, then you damn well deserve the best game experience."

Since we were talking about game experience, I was curious about his "roots," as in his likes and dislikes. You can tell a lot about a person by the games he likes. "I cite Bubble Bobble, GoldenEye 64, Civilization, Half-Life, Doom and Elite as some of the greatest games of all time," he answers, which tells me he has taste. As for his MMOG touchstone, it's a title that predates Ultima Online: "I think that Gauntlet (the arcade game) is the greatest MMOG of all time," he says. While it may not suit the massive definition, the focus on small groups and constant combat should be familiar to anyone immersed in the genre.

The old school MUD designer negotiating the relationship between an old guard British company and the Young Turk Americans is the stuff geeky sitcoms should be made of. It will be interesting to see if it works out, especially considering Mythic's lofty goals for the game. "We want WAR to be to the MMOG model [of] what Half-Life was to Quake - the same, but different; essentially the same tech, but a new experience. We want to move things on and to make a great game in a way that no one could see coming."

In 1972, Shannon Drake was sent to prison by a military court for a crime he didn't commit. He promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, he survives as a soldier of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire Shannon Drake.

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